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Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke: Projecting Yourself

Working On A Deceptive Image


Roy CookeDon’t be deceived by appearances, men and things are not what they seem.

— William Booth

Image is something you can deceptively project. That variation of deception is widespread and overused, particularly around the gambling world. Reason being, we don’t want people to know the truth. It’s frequently in our self-interest to deceive, though not nearly as often as we think.

Deception takes many forms. Sometimes it’s done with purposely misleading half-truths. Other times we deceive with blunt lies. We can also deceive with purposeful unstated actions meant to mislead. You see all these methods and more at the poker table!

Of course, this is all understood upfront in poker. We all know we are there to compete and that deception is expected as a normal part of the game. That said, much of what I see in players’ attempts to deceive is transparent, though the perpetrator rarely thinks so. And, more importantly, if you’re looking to deceive opponents, letting them know you’re trying to be deceptive defeats most, if not all, of your purpose.

That said, certain opponents are easy to deceive. Either naturally naïve, or out of their element at the poker table, they read the situation as it is projected. Many simply want to believe untruths, being delusional or in denial. They are psychologically biased to believe anyone uttering the line they want to believe. And there are plenty around the poker table wiling to reinforce their misbeliefs. Much of the negative image of poker emanates from that hustle.

But there are other methods of deception, classier, and just as effective tactics that are better for the game. All poker players understand upfront that we’re all are there to capture each other’s money. But, over time, the game is better served when the game is comfortable for socially-oriented players.

In most games, at least until you get into the middle limits, most players’ errors are calling when they should fold. This tends to limit the effectiveness of tactics in which you want your opponents to fold when they should call. Additionally, it’s much easier to steer people in the direction they wish to go, so in such games you should project an image that makes people want to call even more.

People tend to call people more when they think the others are luck-oriented, friendly, and unpredictable. That being the case, when in social call-prone games, steer the conversations towards luck, but be lighthearted about it. Keep the game as friendly as possible, avoid whining, and never project anger. Of course, we all know that poker is a game of skill, and we’re there to win. But we don’t want to project that image. I often see poker pros, headphones on, or playing with their phones, never saying a social word, and just sitting like a log ever-patiently waiting for a hand. They’re playing “dead solid” and obviously projecting it to everyone but the completely unaware. And they’re costing themselves action and equity when they finally pick up the hand they’re awaiting.

Projecting unpredictability is a different animal. Some accomplish this by making off-the-wall plays early in a session and then adjusting to optimum play. While this works, there is a cost to it, the negative equity of the suboptimal plays. Theorists argue that the cost can be easily made up in the extra action received on subsequent calls. And they’re often right. But sometimes there is an even better way, one that provides greater overall equity. You can create an image of unpredictability by playing in an unpredictable manner, but without using negative-equity plays to project that image. Instead, unearth positive-equity situations to randomize your play.

You can achieve this by making lots of raises for free cards, raising and trapping with draws, making positive-equity semibluff plays, making plus expected value (EV) bluffs and playfully showing them, and by playing all marginal plus EV hands/situations and fashioning impression-making behaviors to draw attention to them. Once you have sown the seeds of doubt into an opponent’s mind that is psychologically predispositioned to gamble, he’s coming along!

Many players try to tilt their opponents. They belittle, insult, and ridicule them trying to cause errors. There is no question this is often effective over the short term. That said, it usually creates an unpleasant atmosphere that drives away the recreational players. Taken as a whole, “needling to tilt” is an overall loser. Poker is a long-run game and you need to treat it that way!

And then there’s the alternate game texture, when your opponents fold too much. In this game, you want to portray yourself as serious, nitty, and unimaginative. You’ll do better over time grinding them down with blind-robs, bluffs, and trap plays than you will trying to induce them to call you when it’s not in their psychological disposition to do so! Played correctly, this texture of game often has better EV than those games with loose calling stations.

There are many subtle tricks to manipulate your opponents’ thinking. Most are situationally dependent, based on your desired result and your opponents’ texture. For example, you might want to instill in your opponents’ minds that you are on tilt after you have just taken a beat and then picked up a big mitt. How you should undertake this scheme depends on your opponents’ awareness level. With some you can just state that you’re on tilt or say “steam raise” and achieve the desired result. But often people will see through such statements and recognize that you’re just trying to manipulate them. With perceptive opponents, a more subtle approach is needed, such as putting more emphasis on your raise, obviously indicating you’re upset, but not being too obvious.

At the poker table, or in life for that matter, you often see people who think they are being perceived as they are projecting. But unknown to them, their manner transparently shows, and the errors they produce are their own. In short, don’t underestimate your opponents and be so obvious that you now can be read correctly. The right balance requires a truthful read of your opponents’ manners.

Additionally, I think it’s important to separate your poker persona from your life persona. As I stated earlier, deception in poker is all understood upfront and generally accepted. But when you train your mind to operate in a manipulative and deceptive manner, your brain often works in that mode in non-poker situations. You need to mindfully differentiate the two, otherwise you’ll find yourself not the person you desire to be in life.

But, when you sit down at a game ask yourself “what image will work best?” “How can I best project that image to these specific opponents keeping in mind their awareness and judgment levels?” And most importantly, “how can I best exploit that image?”

If you get good at that, you’re going to stack a horde of chips!

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke



almost 5 years ago

You left out... it all depends. hmmm. Is it really u???